Weeks like last week don’t simply come around every Monday morning.
Nevada hadn’t beaten San Diego State since 1999 and it hadn’t ever won at ‘The Pit’ in New Mexico. It did both in a span of 72 hours.
On Wednesday night, Nevada controlled SDSU for 38 minutes then survived a late rally to persevere 72-69 at Lawlor Events Center. On Saturday, Nevada got manhandled by the Lobos before what can possibly be described as divine interaction guided them to a 105-104 overtime victory.
Nevada hit six consecutive triples inside the final minute of regulation to force overtime. There were entire games last year Nevada would be fortunate to hit six shots from deep. Jordan Caroline wrapped up his 45-point night with a, you guessed it, three with two seconds left in overtime to give Nevada the miraculous win.
The Wolf Pack trailed by 25 in the second half, 14 with 70 seconds left and five late in overtime. It didn’t make sense. It probably won’t ever will.
So, what do the wins over SDSU and New Mexico mean?
In the short term, it means Nevada improves to 14-3, 3-1 in the Mountain West – tied with Colorado State for second place, one game back of Boise State.
The long-term effects have the potential to be far greater.
Not only does Nevada already have a pair of wins over a couple conference title contenders (although, SDSU is off to an 0-3 start in conference play), it is instilled with the knowledge it can hang with the big boys.
That alone could prove more valuable than a January win. The effort on Saturday in New Mexico is one that can define a season. It’s one that can alter the course of a program trying to re-establish itself.
Conversely, the wins ultimately won’t mean much other than a fun story if the Pack does not back them up.
At some point this week, the team will have to get past the Miracle in New Mexico (trademark pending). Fans will hang onto the win. The team doesn’t have that luxury. It has 14 Mountain West games remaining – starting Saturday, on the road.
Nevada goes to Wyoming (11-5, 1-2), then comes home to play Air Force (8-8, 1-2) and Fresno State (10-6, 2-2), which already beat the Pack on New Year’s Eve. Those three games lead into pivotal contest at Boise State (11-4, 4-0) on Jan. 25.
If the highlight of the season ends up being a pair of early January wins, 2016-17 will be a disappointment. This team has plans that go far beyond regular-season wins. The victories over SDSU and New Mexico, however, may serve as a bookmark.
If Eric Musselman’s Wolf Pack goes on a run that results in an NCAA Tournament berth, we will look back on the anomaly that was Nevada’s win at New Mexico on Saturday night. We will say it was the night Nevada arrived.
Nathan can be reached via email at email@example.com. His weekly column, ‘Shoup Shots,’ was named the best column in the state of Nevada (community division) by the Nevada Press Association. It runs in the hard copy of the Sparks Tribune every Tuesday morning.